In 2007, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People (UNDRIP) recognised the vital role language plays in identity and culture. It articulated the rights of Indigenous Peoples to their #FirstLanguages in education and public conversation.
Despite this universal acknowledgement of the role language plays in the health, wellbeing, education, and future of Indigenous peoples, these languages are at risk of disappearing from the public conversation for good.
Globally, there are over 370 million Indigenous peoples, and they speak an overwhelming majority of the world’s estimated 7,000 languages. Within Australia alone, 81,100 people identify as the speaker of an Indigenous language and 276,300 people who identify language as part of heritage.
Research from the UN also shows that four in 10 Indigenous languages are at risk of extinction. Locally, the Australian Literacy & Numeracy Foundation (ALNF) found that First Languages are disappearing in Australia at a faster rate than anywhere in the world according to their research.
In September 2020, in an effort to help reverse this pattern, Twitter Australia partnered with the ALNF to mark the thirteenth anniversary of #UNDRIP and raise awareness around the preservation of Indigenous languages. In a global first account takeover, ALNF ambassadors and friends shared voice Tweets in their own First Nations language.
Jeremy Donovan, speaking Kuku-Yalanji
Jeremy Donovan, a Kuku-Yalanji and Gumbaynggirr man, is a world-renowned didgeridoo player and artist.
Zaachariaha Fielding and Michael Ross, speaking Pitjantjatjara & Yankunytjatjara
Vocalist Zaachariaha Fielding and keyboard player and producer, Michael Ross, make up the celebrated electronic music duo, Electric Fields.
Boori Monty Pryor, speaking Kunggandji and Birri-gubba
Boori Monty Pryor is Birri-gubba & Kunggandji man, human rights advocate and author. Best known as a storyteller, he was the inaugural Australian Children's Laureate (2012–2013).
Glenise Coulthard AM, speaking Adnyamathanha
Glenise Coulthard is an Adnyamathanha woman from the Northern Flinders Ranges. She is the longest-serving Director on the Board of the Royal Flying Doctor Service over the past 20 years.
Lala Gutchen, speaking Erub Mer
Lala Gutchen is a proud Erub (Darnley Island) woman from the Meuram tribe in the Torres Strait. Lala is a strong advocate for Erub Mer language and has been recognised as a Young Champion by First Language Australia.
Rosemary Plummer, speaking Warumungu
Rosemary Plummer is a Warumungu custodian who was born at the Phillip Creek Mission. She was educated at Kormilda College, Darwin, and has been a key Warumungu teacher in Tennant Creek and also as Warumungu interpreter.
Over the past decades, Indigenous Australians have fought hard to have our voices heard, but Indigenous languages are still at risk of disappearing. As a human rights advocate and Indigenous Elder, I’ve been campaigning for a large part of my life to preserve our languages and cultures. Through sitting on the board at ALNF, I’ve been involved in some fantastic partnerships and this latest initiative with Twitter will help highlight Indigenous languages and cultures across Australia to new audiences. The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples provides a chance to reflect, and I hope this partnership helps more Australians learn about the importance of preserving First Nations languages and celebrate that Indigenous Australians are the oldest, surviving continuous cultures in the World. The opportunity for a voice is now.
Aussies and people around the world tuned in to hear #FirstLanguage
Technologies and digital platforms are such an everyday part of our lives - it connects us in ways that weren't possible in the past. We’re so proud to have the ALNF and their Ambassadors partner with us to leverage this new product to share their stories, narratives, and conversations on Twitter.